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How to Spot High Performers Vs Low Performers Quickly

Posted by Nicky Coffin

I was introduced to a brilliant book recently called ‘Hiring for Attitude’ by Mark Murphy (thanks Lynne).  For any business owner or manager who are struggling to hire top talent, this is a must read.

Finally someone has put a simple structure around what we need to do to make sure that we hire the right people for our businesses.

I thought it would be useful to share with you some of the key points about high performers from the book and also from what I teach that can  make a big difference to spotting and hiring top talent.

Top performing businesses know to hire  for attitude first rather than skills, because you can train skills, not  attitude.  When you are hiring, you will need to test for these traits, either through competency  questions or role plays.



High Performers – What to Lookout For:

1. Coachability – Rock or Sponge?

Top Performers talk about wanting to  learn and progress, they have ability to accept and implement feedback – like a  sponge. A rock would be someone who is talented, but because they won’t take on  any feedback, they will get to a certain level and then plateau.

2. Emotional Intelligence

Top Performers have the ability to  understand and manage their own emotions and accurately assess others emotions.

3. Are Self Motivated

High performers have loads of drive to achieve, and demonstrate tenacity and persistence – they never give up even when things are really  hard. This is something worth testing for, otherwise you could hire someone who  constantly needs motivating.

4. Talk About Being the Best they Can Be

The key here is that they want to be  the best for THEMSELVES,  different from a lower performer trait where they talk about wanting to prove a  point to someone else. Because high performers want to be the best for  themselves, they will continually push themselves– there is never a time when  they feel they know it all – they believe there is always more to learn.

5. Solutions Focused

High performers take personal  responsibility for the quality and timeliness of their work without blame or  excuses. If they do have problems, they solve them.

6. Like a challenge and when really busy

Find it very enjoyable when busy –  thrive under pressure

7. Ability to Prioritise

Even when they are really busy – they  are able to prioritise their time effectively to spend it on the areas that  will give them the
biggest return.


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Lower Performers – What to Lookout  For:

1. Are Negative

Low performers blame others –  colleagues and customers – when things go wrong and say things like “I couldn’t  get it done because…” or its someone else’s fault.

2. Don’t take Initiative and only do the bare  minimum expected of  them.

These are the people who won’t do  anything outside of their job responsibilities.   If you ask them to do something it takes ages to get  it done.

3. Want to Prove to Someone Else They Can Do  It (i.e. parents, peers, colleagues).  

I once hired a trainee (before I knew  about this trait) who said in interview that they wanted to get into  recruitment so that they
could prove to their father that they could do  it.  She was amazing for  the first 6 months  until she was promoted to consultant.  At  that point, she’d proved to her father and took her foot off the pedal totally.  Eventually we had to let her go for under performance…

4. Will do what others ask to please them even if not profitable.

5. Like to be really busy and have lots of variety – Busy Fool syndrome!
They are unable to prioritise where  they need to spend their time to get the best return.  Beware of this if you are managing, they will find anything that needs doing other than the important money making stuff to fill  their days.

6. Talk about Wanting to  Hit/Achieve target.

High performers will talk about exceeding or smashing their targets.

So there you have it – High Performer and Lower Performer traits.  If you want to know more ways of which to test for these traits, please contact us on  0845 3194838  or email

I hope you found this article useful. If you want to learn how to set up your business, so that it stops underperformance once and for all, then join my free webinarClick on this link to sign up: The 5 Secrets Our Clients Use to Build 7 & 8 Figure Recruitment Businesses